Athens: Text concerning the hunger-thirst strike of anarchist hostages of the 4th wing of Koridallos prisons (Greece)
The following text is a presentation of what followed the incident with and also some general thoughts surrounding the institution of incarceration and how we stand across it as anarchists. Our desire was for it to come out earlier, but our transfer to another wing, the beating of Giannis by the CCF and various other prison matters delayed it.
On 13/12/13, when the yard closed we returned to human-guard Giannis Milonas a small percentage of the violence he applies everyday while holding a key. This specific guy insisted on his quarrelsome behavior when some comrades called him out on the ironic comments he made the day before.
This incident was, for the service, the reason to break up our community which had become a constant thorn for them. In the recent times there have been numerous clashes since we were trying with various ways and for matters we considered nodal, (hunger strike of communists from Turkey, the placing of barbedwire above the yards) to sabotage, to the measure that is possible, the function of the prison.
First move of the service was to transfer five of us to the disciplinary cells, two in the 4th wing, one in the 5th and three remained in the 1st wing. The first hours were acute and we immediately realized the intentions of the service to break us up and weaken us. The comrades who found themselves in the wretched disciplinary cells of the 3rd wing, in cells where a not even a dog would stay, decided to begin a hunger and thirst strike in order to demand the reuniting of our community and so there is no time for the service to plan their next moves.
The demand was to return everyone to the 1st wing since that was where most of our comrades were (besides those In the disciplinary cells), people we had friendly relations with and our stuff. Also the 1st wing was proposed in order to secure ourselves against a possible transfer of us to an isolation wing. The complicated condition that was created showed that it would have been wiser to not propose this specific wing but any other wing in the prison. Below we will explain why.
The strike made the service panic and in the afternoon of the next day the sergeant came to ask us to stop by suggesting we are ALL transferred to the 4th wing. He also told us that the aim of the service was to keep us for five to ten day in the disciplinary cells and divided. We refused our transfer to the 4th since we considered it a form of softer punishment.
That afternoon Babis Tsilianidis also began the strike from the 4th where he was held. Later that day the sergeant came again pressuring us to stop the strike and accept our transfer to the 4th, explaining that it was not the service that has a problem with our return to the 1st but some prisoners. This infuriated us since we had no problems with any prisoner and we naturally considered it a bluff so the service could succeed in transferring us to the 4th.
Later the same day a comrade who remained in the 1st and had communicated with prisoners there informed the comrades in the disciplinary cells and the other wings that some of the leaders of the wing expressed fears that our return would create unsettled conditions with searches by the EKAM (special forces) and other imaginative things, without however clearly saying that they have a problem with our return. Because of the difficulty of communication these converging pieces of information were not combined in time.
The morning of the third day, Grigoris Sarafoudis (who in the meantime had been transferred from the 5th to the 4th after his pressure) began a hunger and thirst strike.
In his now daily interaction with us, the sergeant told us that every punitive intention by the service is lifted and that if we made up with the prisoners in the 1st we could return there. A while later, by coincidence, it was announced to comrades of ours in the 1st by some prisoners that they do not want us to return to the 1st. This was announced in the disciplinary cells by a comrade, so we realized the claims made by the service were valid. At this point we also ceased to desire to return to the 1st since we were not willing to give any guarantees that we will remain calm in order to become tolerable. The afternoon of the same day we pressured so that the comrades from the 1st, 4th and the disciplinary cells could meet to inform each other and decide our moves in front of this unexpected for us development.
Since the demand of the strike was to return to the 1st we thought we would insist, return to the 1sr and then change wings at a time we would choose. There were good chances we would have succeeded that, since as long as the strike continued the service paralyzed and at some point it would pressure the prisoners of the 1st who did not want us there to back down.
But the hunger (and thirst) strike is a political means of struggle which aims at a political opponent, as in our case the service, and not the informal hierarchies of the prison. It is completely suboptimal to us to require the mediation of the service in our differences with prisoners using even a last resort, it was oxymoron to us to continue a hunger and thirst strike for a demand that did not cover us any more. We therefore decided to stop the strike and transfer to the 4th wing.
Self-critique is the most important factor of development and making our own we recognize our mistake of not realizing the extension and depth of the mediation the service uses, sharing with some prisoners the responsibility of maintaining the balances in the prison. Despite that we managed defy the people-guards making it clear to them that we will defend our community, we were quite naive to overlook an invisible for us (until that moment) opponent, the informal hierarchical groups.
In the end however our hunger and thirst strike got us out of a very difficult situation, me managed to maintain our community when it was hit, just as our vested living conditions. And mainly with means which are consistent with the values of the anarchist struggle. We think that the strike would have been harder without the public moves of propaganda and direct actions. The two gatherings where our voices united with those of the solidarians and shook the disciplinary cells and the fires from the arson attack on Exarhia police station showed us that many bets are still on.
We thank the prisoners we met, “forgotten” in the disciplinary cells of the 3rd wing who supported us with food abstention, which in these conditions of absolute poverty, is almost a hunger strike.
We think this excerpt describes prison as we have experienced it in the best way.
In the perimeter there are no guards, they monitor us from the guardhouse which is higher that the yard. But the real monitoring is the electronic one which is based on the presence of cameras everywhere. It is hard to avoid them. But the Management thinks of everything and has carefully made sure they left enough holes in this thorough monitoring, in order for the “monsters” to take care of their business without anyone bothering them. Unless its the business of the service itself with one or another bouncer. What does it matter if one or two poor devils are fried with boiling water or are disfigured with a home made knife? Of what importance is it? The report will not even be three lines. The career of the “suit” is in no danger. And furthermore, a prison is run better like this, because there is always this rapid fratricidal violence. If at least it was for serious reasons, but it was always for stupidities. A bully with great fame can say what he wants without anything ever happening to him or a racist responsible for attacks on Arabs can stroll around among them without a problem.
There is however always a sneaky and resentful person who keeps lit the fire of bitterness. The fire burns slowly for weeks and months, and after that some prisoners speed up their pace and the blows fall like rain. The halls echo of screams and kicks and the smashing of plates breaking and tables turning upside down. The defeated try to get to the blue door to get out of the island. A young guy walks by leaving blood stains on the floor, with his mouth ripped up to the ear.
In a moment weapons come out everywhere. A sock is transformed into something terrible when a snooker ball goes in it! A piece of plexiglas taken from a broken window is a sword that cuts like a razor.
As soon as the first blood flows, the crazy ones lose their self-control. There are piranhas roaming the halls looking for easy prey. After the clashes appear always two or three people who have been smashed, without having anything to do with the initial incidents. A young guy with his head smashed in the toilet where the surprised him while he was taking a piss. A guy with ten holes from a knife, having done nothing.
Up against that, not even a prisoner can recognize law or justice. Not even if he is blinded. They only see an opposite gang fortified with tones of stupidity, shit structures, criminal refusal of any responsibility and arbitrary humiliations. A gang always ready to do the minimal possible and avoid any change, any dispute. The individual that enters prison in cuffs on his hands and legs must know that he is transformed into a slave of a slimy war leader and his armed men. All the rest, as well as those rumors about a correctional community, it is nothing but stupidities for the the gallery and the Parisian committees.
The fact that prison is the most sadistic institution of capitalist society is a fact that someone can hardly dispute. What is disputed when you cross its gate is the axiom that since prison is an inhuman and repulsive institution, its subject must be sanctified.
We consider it therefore useful to mention a few things concerning the reality of prison and the way it functions, at least as we have perceived it up to now, clarifying of course that from prison to prison there are differences, just as there are from one wing to another inside the same prison. Thus, some of what we write might apply to a different degree or even not at all in other cases.
Despite all this, one thing is for sure and does not change depending on the prison and this is the very specific role it holds in capitalist society. It is the main space where happens the osmosis at a first degree of spontaneous criminality with organized crime and at a second degree organized crime with the “white collar crimes”. A connection and co-overlapping which totally compose the economy. It is a space where discipline, hierarchy and mediation (from formal and informal authorities) are consolidated and reproduced to an almost absolute degree in relations.
The correctional character of the prison does not lie in the creation of law abiding citizens but people who espouse and reproduce the above values in its functioning.
Prison is not a romantic community of illegals, it is a “community” imposed by the penal justice as such. Thus, people from basically irrelevant (between them) social categories are made to co-exist and correlate. The bouncer, the smack dealer, the junkie, the passion criminal, the bank robber, the kiosk robber, ‘the purse snatcher, the contract killer, the smuggler, the inadvertent killer, the bomber, the “terrorist” (with many belonging to more than one categories), are “stuffed” under the common denominator of criminality, a homogenization led by the penal justice, the punitive coded ideology of capital.
Thus, this community that someone might believe that the common experience of limitation, oppression and exclusion would raise the mood for struggle and resistance is artificial and false. This is why the feeling of community and the mood for struggle are undermined by resignation, apathy, racism, commissioning and mediation.
The brutality of capitalism is reproduced pure and with more crass terms in prison. From the “spatholouro”(1) and the “legeni”(2) up to the “bouncer”(3) and the “taxi”(4), every prisoner finds a position in the hierarchical complex of prison. A position which is directly intertwined with the size of power each prisoner has.
In this way discipline and control are individualized,whether because someone is a snitch and the service needs him, or because he gives percentage of his dealings to the service, or because he has people outside who can apply pressure, or because he is a public figure, or because he is an old timer and has influence over other prisoners. Every prisoner wins his position in the system of prison depending on his “negotiability” power with the service. And this power is defined by the degree-force of influence he has in groups of prisoners which usually have racial characteristics or are organized based on race.
Generally prison is a world of balances, balances between various hierarchies and groupings of prisoners, balances between different poles of authority of prisoners and people-guards, balances between prisoners and the service (whether as individuals or as a total).
This, together with the various ideologies which are widely spread here as well as outside, with fear and with a variety of internal and external factors leads most prisoners to a state of apathy. They resignedly wait for their torture to end, “get through their sentence” closed in their microcosm tolerating many times insults from other prisoners and the service.
Actually we experienced this in the days following the attack on the human-guard since people we had friendly relations with and shared a mutual sympathy, although distressed with the attitude of the service and other prisoners did not have the possibility to react, basically remaining uninvolved.
Of course, apathy is perpetuated also by the abundant supply of psychiatric drugs, decompression valves which inevitably are created by the condition of imprisonment and the means of control, imposition, profitability and strengthening of the economy and informal economy.
In the frames therefore of the aforementioned balances and given the condition of existence of hierarchical poles of authority in the interior of the prison, there is an importance to try to clarify to a degree the way these two connect,
The groupings of prison do not differ much from those of the rest of society. They are structured based on either race on “network” interests, many times both.
We have therefore a way of organizing (complicated in many cases) based on the power of negotiation we described earlier, with quite liquid relations so much in the interior as well as between the groupings, where the decisions for major matters of prison are taken by the top of the hierarchy. A direct result is of course the fragmentation of the “community” of the prisons, something supported and promoted also by the service in the logic of “divide and conquer” with as an ultimate aim, always, the smooth function of the prison.
We on our side ought to clarify to our comrades outside the walls, the way with which we seek to move around in here and the reasons for which this is happening.
In prison we came in contact with people we did not know, exchanged opinions, agreed, disagreed and realized that one of the things we agreed on was our desire to not be assimilated and to not accept prison as as a space and way of function. For us the fact that an anarchist revolutionary is hostage for a period of time does not mean they forget the reason for which they went to prison, neither that they will compromise with the situation till they are out again. Thus, independently of the points of conciliation with which we compromise by necessity, we cannot but stand against the service and the authoritarian groupings as well as the logics of subjugation and cannibalism they promote.
We have felt it very well that prison is a place where conventions dominate, we experience as intense as ever our weakness to directly clash with the enemy, we are enraged that even the elementary needs such as seeing our loved ones are mediated. Prison as a space and as relations that govern it has its way to disappoint, isolate and individualize.
The condensed reality inside the wall has made us back down to conventions and tolerate situations which we would have never thought of outside.
This is why we consider it is very important to create a community with political characteristics. A community which will function anti-hierarchically in its interior, with no mediated concerning the service, that is to say, it does not intend to be transformed into one more intermediate between service and prisoners and extrovert, pursuing to connect with prisoners who are susceptible to these values as well as with comrades and structures outside the walls.
Community in no case implies identification of ideas. Since its aim is the spreading inside the walls and the connection with anarchist projects outside, experiential courses and perceptions. It aims at the proposition of our defense against the alienating condition of our imprisonment and attack on the institution of prison. It pursues to built relations based not on the prison-macho culture of bravado, herd-like force and imposition, but relations based on co-respect and recognition of differentiability.
Upon this base some of us together with other prisoners created the Initiative of anarchist hostages of Koridallos and the Network of anarchist prisoners. These two formations operate on initiative, which means with no steady composition on few common agreements aiming at our intervention, word and action, in various incidents so much inside as well as outside the walls. We also promote the coordination and cooperation between prisoners in different prisons, anarchists or not, who recognize the importance and necessity of organized and aggressive action against the prisons.
A community of anarchist prisoners can play a catalyst role and sabotage the smooth function of the prison. Depending on the anthropography of every wing and the degree of transaction it has with the service can cause explosions against the institution, just as it can easily accept oppression from the prisoners themselves in order to maintain the balances. It might seem foreign for people outside but the reality of prison is that if you choose to attack one of its structures and whatever it represents, you must take into consideration not only the reactions of the service and state authority generally, but also the prisoners themselves. This of course does not mean that we will stop attempting these exceedences and seek to share moments of struggle with other real people inside and outside the walls.
We do not need to argue about how the conditions of economic crisis, social polarization, the appearance of new revolutionary projects, the consequent intensification of oppression and the general liquid social situation will increasingly continue to feed the prisons with those who fight or simply those who are unnecessary to capitalism and the state.
What is needed is to realize that prisons are one more field of anarchist revolutionary intervention and prepare for that.
1. the wannabe bully
2. subjugated prisoner because of his position
3. the bouncer/thug!
4. lower level prisoner who gets paid to runs errands as a servant of other prisoners
Tags: Alexandros Mitrousias, Andreas-Dimitris Bourzoukos, Argiris Dalios, Athens, Babis Tsilianidis, Dimitris Politis, Fivos Harisis, Giannis Mihailidis, Giannis Naxakis, Giorgos Karagiannidis, Greece, Grigoris Sarafoudis, Initiative of Anarchist Prisoners in Korydallos, Korydallos Prison, Prison Struggle, Tasos Theofilou
This entry was posted on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 7:58 pm and is filed under Prison Struggle.